The Friends of the Nazarene On-line Magazine

VOLUME 2 - JUNE 1998

STATEMENT OF PURPOSE: The "Friends of the Nazarene" are a research group for better Bible understanding dedicated to the preservation and publishing of Christian writings which aid the Father’s Children to "follow the Lamb no matter where the Lamb goes." We are apologists dedicated to the defense of the truth that "God is One and not Three." The Bible is our credo. We wish to respect the views of our multitude of Christian brethren. (1 Peter 3:15)

IN THIS ISSUE

1. The Resurrection According to Paul

2. Announcements

3. Perfecting the Christian Character: Deference

4. Faith Perspectives: "Christian Liberty"

5. Is God One or Three?

6. Why the Number "Three"?

7. Nazarene Love

THE RESURRECTION --- ACCORDING TO PAUL

[Reproduced from the online publication WHERE ARE THE DEAD?]

INTRODUCTION.

In the entire Bible, in all of the Scripture, there is only one chapter which deals exclusively with the subject of the resurrection. It is the fifteenth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church. Here in 58 verses is the inspired subject of the resurrection According to Saint Paul. In this essay about death and life in the here-after the saintly rabbi uses words like soul, spirit, body, life, earth, heaven, resurrect, immortality and others. Is it fair to assume that we have here in this one chapter the sum of what the Bible teaches, or does not teach, on the subject of the after-life?

The after-life is right at the root of all religion. Virtually all earth’s inhabitants, with the exception of less than one or two percent, share some kind of belief in the after-life. There is only one absolute in all of our lives, one matter which we may be quite assured of, one item which all earth’s billions can agree: we are going to die! If this is the case, then death and the possibility of life after death, ought to be a subject we are intensely interested in. If we believe God exists, and the odds are fifty-fifty that He does, then the Creator must be factored into this subject of death and life after death.

Virtually all of us were raised with some idea on this subject. We may have learned them from our parents. Later, we formed certain ideas of our own as taught by our religion. It is fair to state that most religious persons share a common belief: we possess an immortal soul which survives the death of our body and continues to live in an after-life. At this point the beliefs vary as to what exactly happens. Many "Christian" churches believe the faithful go to heaven to live with God while the wicked go to a hell-fire. Catholics would throw a middle ground, a Purgatory, into the picture. Eastern religions would tend toward some transmigration of souls or reincarnation in which all of us are recycled.

With 55 verses, an entire chapter before us, what did Saint Paul believe regarding this subject? We must admit this is a most excellent opportunity for him to address this question thoroughly. Certainly, he will not omit such things as an immortal soul, hell, purgatory, the resurrection of the physical body, or even reincarnation?

Is it possible to set aside previously held views and approach Saint Paul’s commentary with an open and unbiased mind as we consider these verses? Is it possible to come to this subject without religious prejudice just for the moment? Can we set aside what we have heard or learned, and read these verses with the motive of wanting to know what the inspired Apostle had to teach?

What follows will be an overall consideration of these verses. Some of the verses will be paraphrased while others will be copied from the Revised Standard Version with comparisons from the Greek and other translations. The letters NR stand for Nazarene Rendering based on the work of Nazarene Saints. Words or phrases in [brackets] indicate alternate renderings. Let us begin then with a fair reading and commentary on First Corinthians chapter fifteen. (1 Corinthians 15:1-54)

THE RESURRECTION -- ACCORDING TO PAUL

First, we begin by asking what question is Paul addressing in this section of his letter? There are two. The first is in verse 12: "How can some of you say there is no resurrection?" The second is in verse 35: "How are the dead to be raised?"

1 CORINTHIANS 15:1-- 4 PAUL’S GOSPEL MESSAGE. In the opening four verses Paul restates to the Corinthian the kernel of his original message to them: "Christ died for our sins in Accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in Accordance with the scriptures."

A word is introduced here which Paul will use about twenty times, "raise(d)." The word will occur in verses 4, 12-17, 20, 29, 32, 35, 42-44, 53. The Greek word is EGEGERTAI (he was raised). Since Paul’s subject is the "resurrection" (verses 12, 35) is it fair to state "raised" is a synonym for it? So, Paul believes Jesus the Nazarene was raised or resurrected from the dead. Paul is not the first inspired writer to use the metaphorical word "raised" or EGEGERTAI. He may have been well aware the idea occurred in Job 14:13 and Daniel 12:2. He probably knew his Lord and early disciples had used forms of the word EGEIRO. (Matthew 10:8; 11:5; 12:42; 16:21; 26:32; 27:63; Lk 9:22; 11:31; John 2:19, 22; 5:21)

1 CORINTHIANS 15:5-8 -- PROOF OF CHRIST BEING RAISED FROM THE DEAD. In these verses Paul lists the witnesses to the raising of Christ from the dead: Peter (Cephas), the Twelve, and then "more than five-hundred" disciples. He states that most of these are alive and so can be interviewed or cross examined for eye-witness evidence. This personal testimony of the living eye-witnesses must have been powerful for within a few months thousands of people were baptized publicly confessing their belief in a Risen Christ. (Acts 2:41; 3:15; 4:2, 4)

Paul adds two "unbelievers" to whom the Risen Christ appeared: the disciple and half-brother of Jesus, James; and, Paul himself. The strength of this eye-witness testimony can be understood by realizing that as a result of Jesus’ own teaching and miracles about 500 persons committed themselves to Nazarene discipleship. However, within a couple months of hearing the testimony of the disciples nearly ten thousand persons became Christian believers. Christ’s own resurrection, and the eye-witness testimony to it, had a more powerful affect than the miracles of Jesus himself.

If Peter, Paul, and other disciples, are examples of some of the enthusiasm and zeal of these eyewitnesses then their personal testimony throughout their lives, during the next 40 years, is responsible for so many conversions from among Jews and pagans alike. (Acts 10:39-41) In First Corinthians Paul has already stated his conviction with powerful faith when he asks them, "Have I not seen Christ?" (1 Corinthians 9:1) He could not have begun to make such a claim if the Corinthians had not already Accepted the testimony Paul had given to them.

The idea that a certain man Actually was raised from the dead and that eyewitnesses had not only observed his death and burial, but also his resurrection, was the driving force in the spread of Christianity. Meanwhile, for the Nazarene’s enemies, the "empty tomb" was not only an embarrassment but the silence of that grave resounded around the world! (Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 15:47; 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-18)

1 CORINTHIANS 15:12-19 -- "THERE IS NO RESURRECTION!" Now there is a voice of objection from within the Corinthian congregation. Paul must have been told this idea was making its rounds among the Corinthian Christians. This assertion that some Christians were saying "there is no resurrection" seems completely out of character to modern Christians. However, these were Greeks and after Plato they had no belief in a "resurrection." Rather, Greeks believed in the immortality of the soul which rendered a resurrection unnecessary.

A new word is here introduced by Paul in response to this divisive chord coming from the church in Corinth: "resurrection." It is the Greek word ANASTASIS from which the name Anastasia comes. It literal means "again + standing" or a re-standing. In verse 12 here it seems clear that "raised" (EGEGERTAI) is a synonym for "resurrection." The word "resurrect(ion)" is to occur three more times. (15:13, 21, 42)

Paul is not the first one to use a form of ANASTASIS in the Bible. That scholarly Jewish rabbi, now converted to Christianity, knew quite well forms of the word occurred in the Hebrew Scriptures in its Greek version, the Septuagint. He likely was quite aware this word could be found at Job 14:12 (ANASTE) and 42:17 (ANASTESESTHAI, ANISTESIN). Surely, he himself had read Isaiah 26:14, 19 (ANASTESOUSI, ANASTESONTAI) for he will quote from Isaiah 25:8 near the end of his inspired commentary. (15:54) He may have known also that his own Lord, Jesus the Nazarene, had quoted Isaiah 26:19 and used a nearly identical phrase including the word ANASTASIN. This was to be recorded later at John 5:29. Finally, Paul would have known ANASTESE occurred in Daniel 12:13 with regard to the prophet’s own standing up from his restful sleep.

Paul may have known his traveling companion the beloved physician Luke was preparing his own Gospel and would have their Lord Jesus use ANASTASIS in Luke 20:33, 35, 36. The apostle John was to put this Greek word in the mouth of the Nazarene in John 5:29; 6:39, 40, 44, 54;11:24, 25. It would appear that the Nazarene believed "resurrect" meant "to make alive" or "raise from the dead." (John 5:21, 29)

If there is no resurrection at all Paul argues: a) Christ has not been raised (resurrected); b) our preaching and faith is useless; c) we are false witnesses; d) we are still in our sins; e) the Christian dead are perished; and, f) we Christians are most to be pitied (for such a false hope).

In this particular context Paul uses a word he introduced in verse 6 and will use again. (15:6,18, 20, 51) It is the word "asleep" or "sleeping." Paul uses the Greek KOIMETHENTES (have fallen asleep) as a metaphor for death. Paul knows the Hebrew Scriptures use such a word to describe the condition of the dead in unconscious sleep. (Job 14:12 KOIMETEIS; Psalm 13:3; Daniel 12:2) Paul is likely to have known that his Lord Jesus also used such a word for death. (John 11:11) So Paul uses such a word as "sleep" elsewhere for death (1 Corinthians 7:39; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15), as does Peter. (2 Peter 3:4)

Accordingly, the opposite of "sleeping" in death is to awaken or wake up. (Isaiah 14:9; 26:19; Daniel 12:2) Paul uses the idea at Ephesians 5:14: "Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead." He uses an even more subtle expression inferring an early or dawn rising from sleep with EXANATASIN at Philippians 3:11.

1 CORINTHIANS 15:20-28 -- WHAT THE RAISING OF CHRIST MEANS. Now we embark on one of the most important series of phrases in Paul’s answer. Who will be resurrected and when?

1 Corinthians15:20, 23: "But in fact Christ has been raised (EGEGERTAI) from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. ... Christ, the first fruits." The first to rise from the dead is Jesus the Nazarene. Paul is well aware that there had been temporary resurrections as miracles performed by the prophets and Jesus. (Hebrews 11:35) So, he must enlarge his idea here to mean raised or resurrected in the fullest sense. He writes of this unique resurrection of Jesus in Colossians 1.18 where he calls Jesus, "the first-born from the dead." In his Apocalypse, the Nazarene describes himself, "the first-born from the dead" and "the First and the Last who died and now lives." (Revelation 1:5; 2:8)

Can any other idea be understood by this other than Jesus the Nazarene was the first person to rise or be resurrected from the dead and thus all others are still sleeping in the grave? If mankind had been surviving death, either to go to heaven or to hell, Paul does not explain this as part of his belief. He does not say that now that Jesus has been resurrected he has joined Abraham, or Moses, or the Prophets in heaven, for then Jesus would not be the "first-born from the dead" but merely one other of the millions who had already risen from the dead.

1 Corinthians15:21, 22: "For sin death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead had also come through a human being, for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ." Here Paul introduces another word as a synonym for being raised or resurrected: "made alive." The phrase is from the Greek ZOOPOIETHESONTAI (will be made alive) contains what is the English word "zoo" and from which Eve gets her name, Zoe. Paul is to go on to use a form of the word in verses 36 and 43. Perhaps he knows his Lord used it as later recorded in John 5:21.

Paul makes it clear, just as "all" died in Adam "all" will be made alive in Christ. It is the death and resurrection of Jesus which paves the way for all mankind traceable back to Adam to be raised, made alive or resurrected. It is According to the purpose of God that all men die due to sin, but will finally be raised for judgment regarding the life they lived. Paul teaches this in his letter to the Romans 2:5-10, 16: "You are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. For He will repay According to each one’s deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek glory and honor and immortality [note: incorruption], He will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. ... on the day when, According to the gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all." To the Jews Paul wrote: " ... it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment." (Hebrews 9:27) To the Athenian philosophers who believed in the immortality of the soul Paul spoke: "(The God) has appointed a day on which He will righteously judge the inhabited earth by a Man He appointed, having furnished proof to all by having him raised from the dead." (Acts 17:31 NR) So, it seems clear that all will be resurrected. But, in what order, or when, will mankind’s masses rise, or be made alive again, or be resurrected?

1 CORINTHIANS 15:23-28 -- THE ORDER OR RANK OF THE RESURRECTION. Paul continues to answer the next obvious question: "But, each one in his own order [rank, division]: (1) Christ the first-fruits, (2) afterward [then, next] those of the Christ at his Arrival [coming, presence]; (3) then The End when (the Son) hands over the kingdom [realm, domain] to his God and Father --- when [after] (the Son) has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For it is a necessity for ‘(the Son) to reign [rule as king] until (The God) places his enemies under his feet.’ (Psalm 110:1) The last enemy to be abolished [destroyed, stopped, done away with, made ineffective] is Death. For (the God) ‘subjected everything under(the Son’s) feet.’ (Psalm 8:6) But, when (the God) says that everything has been subjected, it is clear that (the God) who subjected (everything) to (the Son) is excepted [not included]. But, when everything is subjected to (the Son), then also the Son will subject himself to the One who subjected (everything) to (the Son), so that The God will be everything to everyone." (RSV; NR)

Though there is much of interest in these verses, here our main focus is the resurrection itself. Does it seem fair to conclude that after the Son as the first-fruit of those made alive from the dead there are two orders or ranks? Is it fair to conclude that these two are a first and a last? Is it fair to conclude that none rise, come to life, or are resurrected between the resurrection of the First-fruits until the Arrival (PAROUSIA = Presence or Coming) of Christ? Is it fair to conclude that between these two events the King "reigns" alone? Is it fair to conclude that upon the Arrival (PAROUSIA) of the King "those of Christ" rise first?

The phrase "those of Christ" (OI TOU CHRISTOU) is generally rendered "those who belong to Christ." Who may these be? Judging from similar phrases in Paul’s letters is it fair to conclude these are Christians, that is, disciples of Jesus, the Nazarene Saints? (Romans 1:6; 14:8; 1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:21; Galatians 3:29; 5:24) So, the first rank or order of mankind to be made alive, raised, or resurrected are only those who have identified themselves with the Christ.

Paul must know that his Lord Jesus Christ the Nazarene taught that upon the King’s Arrival "the Elect" (or, chosen ones) would be gathered. (Matthew 24:31; Mark 13:27) In the context of the Parousia (Arrival) Paul uses a similar term in 2 Thessalonians 2:1 showing the "Gathering" is so connected. Paul had written his two epistles to the Thessalonians before those verses dealing with the resurrection in First Corinthians. At 1 Thessalonians 4:16 Paul had already written that "those dead in Christ be resurrected first" (OI VEKROI EN CHRISTO ANASTESONTAI), "the dead in Christ will rise first." (RSV)

So, how do we conclude and summarize Paul’s teaching thus far on the subject of the resurrection? Out of all mankind, Jesus Christ was the first to be made alive, raised or resurrected. Christ reigns alone until that moment of his Return or Arrival (Presence) and then the first to be made alive, raised, or resurrected are those claiming to be Christians. Next in order will be the rest of dead mankind at the moment Paul calls "the End." (HO TELOS) Paul does not reveal how long it will be between Christ’s own resurrection as the Firstfruits and the awakening, making alive, raising, or resurrecting of all the Christian believers throughout time. Nor does Paul make known how long a time it is between the raising of the Christian body of believers and "the End" when the last awakening or resurrection occurs.

However, the Beloved Apostle John does reveal this matter in complete harmony with Paul. Revelation 20:4, 5 reads: "Then I saw thrones and those seated on them were given authority to judge. ... They came to life and reigned with the Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended [TELESTHE].)" [NOTE: for details see the publication NAZARENE APOCALYPSE.] This explains that there is at least a thousand years between the resurrection of Christian believers and "the rest of the dead." This point agrees with Paul’s "order" and what occurs at "the End" (1 Corinthians 15:24 = HO TELOS). Interestingly a form of this word occurs in Revelation 20:3, 5, 7 (TELESTHE) which refers to the end of the Thousand Years.

What does this mean today? Since Christ has not returned in his foretold Arrival or Presence --- with the accompanying visible signs (including celestial darkness) observable to "all the tribes of the earth" (Matthew 24:30; Mark 13:25, 26) --- ONLY ONE PERSON HAS GONE TO HEAVEN TO BE WITH GOD! Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the Firstfruits of those who sleep in death. All the rest of mankind, including all Christian believers throughout almost twenty centuries, still lie asleep in the dust of death awaiting the "first" or "early resurrection." (Revelation 20:6; Philippians 3:11) NO ONE HAS YET GONE TO HEAVEN! ALL OUR DEAD LOVED ONES WHO HAD BEEN CHRISTIANS ARE ASLEEP IN THE GRAVE. All may be described in the words of Job 14:13, 14 (LXX Bagster): "For, O that Thou hadst kept me in (Hades) and hast hidden me until Thy wrath should cease, and Thou shouldest set me a time in which Thou wouldest remember me! For if a man should die, shall he live again, having Accomplished the days of his life? I will wait till I exist again."

Where do our dead Christian loved ones "sleep"? Job catches the idea in his word "remember." All the Christian dead wait in the Divine Memory and so in this sense "they are ‘living’ to Him" (Luke 20:38) and must wait the resurrection. It is comforting to us that the dead are in the peace of sleep and "know nothing" of the passage of any time for "their thoughts perished." (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10; Psalm 146:3, 4; Ecclesiastes 3:19-21) To them, upon their resurrection, it will seem instantaneous, just as when a person undergoes surgery and suddenly awakens in the recovery room though many hours may have passed.

JUDGMENT DAY. For his own reasons Paul does not discuss Judgment Day in his consideration of the resurrection. Paul knows his Lord Jesus taught about Judgment Day: "The good man out of his good treasure sends out good things, whereas the wicked man out of his wicked treasure sends out wicked things. I tell you that every unprofitable saying that men speak, they will render an Account concerning it on Judgment Day; for by your words you will be declared righteous, and by your words you will be condemned." (Matthew 12:35-37 NWT; compare also Matthew 10:15; 11:22, 24) John is later to record the Nazarene’s teaching on resurrection and judgment: "Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practised vile things to a resurrection of judgment." (John 5:28, 29 NWT)

Paul himself would have known the Nazarene there combines Isaiah 26:19 and Daniel 12:2, the later verse reading: "Of those who are sleeping in the Land of Dust, many will awaken, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting disgrace." (NJB) This later phrase is what Jesus means by "resurrection of judgment." Both Paul and John uses these same phrases to speak of the judgment at the PAROUSIA or Arrival of Christ. Combining the two apostles we have: "Do not judge anything before the Lord arrives [comes] at the Appointed Time. (He) will expose [reveal] with Light the hidden things [secret motives; inner aims and motives] of darkness and make manifest the (secret) counsels of the hearts and then each ones praise will come from The God. ... For it is a necessity that we must all be made manifest [appear; scrutiny] in front of the Judgment-Seat [bar; tribunal] of the Messiah, so that each one may be awarded [reap the results; repaid; get his payment] for those things done while in the (fleshly) body [the life he has lived in the body], whether good things or vile things. ... So, now, Little Children, remain in harmony with [live in union with; abide in] (the Son) so that whenever he should be manifested [appear] we might be outspoken [cheerful confidence; full of courage] in the Day of Judgment and not be put to shame [embarrassed] in his Presence [Arrival]." (1 Co 4:5; 2 Co 5:10; 1 John 2:28; 4:17 NR) Both Paul and John uses words right out of Daniel 12:2 and John 5:29. (Paul’s PHAULON (vile - 2 Co 5:10) and AGATHON (good - 2 Co 5:10) with Jesus’ PHAULA (vile - John 5:29) and AGATHA (good - John 5:29); John’s KRISEOS (judgment - 1 John 4:17) with Jesus’ KRISEOS (judgment - John 5:29); John’s AISCHYNTHOMEN (put to shame - 1 John 2:28) with Daniel’s AISCHYNEN (shame - Daniel 12:2)

What does this mean? Upon their resurrection all dead Christians will face the judgment before the Throne of Christ. Peter puts it this way: "But these will render an account to the One ready to judge the living and the dead. ... Because the judgment at the appointed time starts first with the Household of The God." (1 Peter 4:5, 17 NR) This is called the parousia-Judgment or that judging which occurs upon the living and the dead Christians when the Master of the Household of faith returns for his inspection. This is what is behind the numerous parables of the Nazarene dealing with the Master’s Return. (Matthew 24:45-25:46; Luke 12:35-48; 19:12-27) According to Jesus’ parable of the Sower, the Wheat and the Tares, "the sons of the Devil" within the Realm of the Son are destroyed first before the Wheat-class are taken to the Father’s "barn." (Matthew 13:29, 30; 41-43) But, what more does Paul have to say on this subject of the resurrection?

1 CORINTHIANS 15:29-34 -- BAPTIZED OVER THE DEAD. This series of verses presents several problems and the commentaries vary on their meaning. Some have gone so far as to understand it to mean living Christians can be baptized in proxy for dead relatives. Since the Bible no where else contains such an idea, and since the idea seems to contradict the Bible teaching of personal judgment and accountability to God, we must pass on to another explanation.

Paul continues to describe his life as a Christian missionary as to be one that is daily exposed to death. "I die every day," Paul says. To the Roman Christians Paul had written something similar where he combines the idea of baptism and death: "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?" (Romans 6:3, 4 RSV) The idea echoes the Nazarene’s own words to those who would follow him: "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their crosses and follow me." (Matthew 16:24 RSV) And again, Jesus warns: "’Are you able to drink the cup which I am drinking, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am being baptized?’ They said to him: ‘We are able.’ At that Jesus said to them: ‘The cup I am drinking you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am being baptized you will be baptized.’" (Mark 10:38, 39 NWT)

Combining all of this it seems to mean that any Christian disciple who wishes to follow the Nazarene must also be immersed or baptized into a life of sacrifice unto a death in loyalty. Thus, Paul’s meaning of "baptized over the dead" asks: If Christ has not been raised then your life of self-less sacrifice, exposed to death daily for your faith, is useless.

1 CORINTHIANS 15:35-49 -- HOW ARE THE DEAD RAISED? WITH WHAT KIND OF BODY DO THEY COME? We are very much interested in these questions though Paul calls the one who raised them, "Foolish," or, "Senseless." Evidently Paul knows the argumentative question is raised by someone among those who said there was no resurrection in verse 12. However, Paul goes on to answer the question in detail.

Paul writes: "Fool, what you [the singular "you" referring to the "fool"] sow does not come to life unless it dies. And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain." Paul could be alluding to the Nazarene’s parable of the Wheat and Tares, slyly indicating this person may be a "tare" or "son of the Devil." (ZIZANIA) The word "sow" must refer to that state of life which ends in being planted in the ground and thus "dies."

Paul continues: "But God gives it a body [Grk: SOMA] as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body." Paul goes on to state that bodies vary in nature as well in the celestial universe. Does Paul not seem to mean that the body in which you live is not the body you are going to become, but God will give you another body as He so chooses? And, just as there is variety in earthly bodies as well as different glory among stars, they will be a variety among those bodies God will yet give.

1 CORINTHIANS 15:42-45 -- A SPIRITUAL BODY. It seems likely that what is to follow deals with "those who belong to Christ" (verse 23). Paul is to now describe the difference between the human body and that future body which is "given" the faithful in Christ. Paul writes: "So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable [corruption; decomposition; perishable; decays], what is raised is imperishable [incorruption; imperishable; free from decay]. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body [natural; animal; soulical; soul-like], it is raised a spiritual [spirit-like] body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living soul’ (Genesis 2:7); the last Adam became a life-giving spirit."

Something quite surprising occurs here, quite contradictory to what most have come to believe about the "soul." The words above, "physical body," are from the Greek SOMA PSYCHICON (body soul-like). This is the only time Paul uses the word for "soul" in a form of PSYCHE. But, here he makes it clear that which is soul-like (PSYCHICON) is perishable, dishonorable, and weak. Thus the human soul (the Latin ANIMAS = animal) is not incorruptible, glorious, or powerful. This is completely opposite the ancient Greek notion of an immortal soul residing within the physical body.

To prove his point Paul paraphrases Genesis 2:7 where the Jewish Greek Bible (the Septuagint) says: "the man (Adam) became a living soul [PSYCHEN ZOSAN]." Paul would have known that this was not the first occurrence of PSYCHE in the Jewish Greek Bible. The word occurs earlier when used of animals and fish, or breathing creatures. (Genesis 1:20, 24) So, to Paul, the soul is the living person with its physical body. He has already said this is not the "body" that will be, for God will give the soulical or animal another body, a different one, one spirit-like.

1 CORINTHIANS 15:46-50 -- THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE SOUL-LIKE AND SPIRIT-LIKE. Paul continues: "But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical [soulical; soul-like; animal]; and then [afterward] the spiritual [PNEUMATICON = spirit-like. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, so we will also bear the image of the man of heaven." (RSV)

Is it fair to conclude that no human (other than Christ) was ever "spiritual" [PNEUMATICON = spirit-like] first as if he had a pre-existence? Paul’s statement would seem to rule out the idea of a continual recycling of human souls in different life forms, such as transmigration or reincarnation; or, the idea that we first existed as spirit entities and then became physical.

Now we have numerous synonyms to describe the soul-like or physical existence: decayable in the grave, dusty or earthly, weak, dishonorable, and patterned after fallen Adam, the man of the dust. In contrast, the body that God will give upon the resurrection (that is, being raised or made alive) will be spirit-like, heavenly, powerful, incorruptible, glorious, after the pattern of the Risen Christ.

Paul now summarizes his point: "What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable in inherit the imperishable." (Verse 50) The "perishable" is that which is "flesh and blood" or that "soul-like body" (PSYCHICON SOMA). In order to enter the heavenly Kingdom of God the Christian "sown" in this physical body of flesh and blood, this soul-like [soulical] body, must die and be planted in the ground --- mortal, perishable, earthly, weak, and lacking honor. Only then will The God "give it a body as He chooses." This new body is not flesh and blood, but rather it is incorruptible, immortal, heavenly, powerful, and glorious. All dead Christians are still waiting for the Arrival of the King, as they "sleep in the Land of Dust." But, obviously there will be some "living" Christians at the moment of the Master’s coming. What about them?

1 CORINTHIANS 15:51-57 -- A MYSTERY AT THE LAST TRUMPET! Now comes one of the most sublime and transcendental passages in all Scripture. Paul centers his attention on the moment of the resurrection during the Last Trumpet. He writes: "Listen, I will tell you a mystery! [a secret truth; sacred secret] We will not all die [sleep], but we will be changed [transformed], in a moment [Grk ATOMOS = uncut time], in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable [incorruptible], and we shall be changed [transformed]. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability [incorruption], and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’" (Isaiah 25:8)

These verses and phrases may be best understood by realizing that in an earlier letter from Paul to the Thessalonians he has already written about this same subject of what happens at the "last trumpet." Thus, we may view his words to the Corinthians to be something of a commentary on his earlier teaching. First Thessalonians 4:15-17 reads: "For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming [presence; arrival] of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the arch-angel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up [raptured] in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air [at the same time; simultaneously]." (RSV)

Paul’s "mystery" in 1 Corinthians 15:51 is here explained as "the word of the Lord" or as the New Jerusalem Bible has it, "by the Lord’s own teaching." Paul has comprehended a hidden truth in the teachings of Jesus which the Nazarene draws from Daniel 12:1, 2. What is this "secret"? The prophet Daniel had foretold a great "oppression" which would befall God’s People but when "Michael (the archangel) appeared" (JPS) "those written in the Book" would "escape" (Daniel 12:1) while many of those sleeping in "the Land of Dust" would "awake" to everlasting life. (Daniel 12:2) This seems to indicate two groups: a living group who "escape" or are "delivered"; and, a dead group who rise from their sleep.

Did Jesus the Nazarene rely on this text in Daniel 12:1, 2 for some of his own teachings? We have already seen where he made use of Daniel 12:2 at John 5:29. Also, Jesus alludes to the prophet Daniel in Matthew 24:15. Where does he make use of Daniel to show that there would be two groups of believers at the moment of the resurrection? The Nazarene does this when he comforts the sister of Lazarus who he had formerly told his disciples was "sleeping" in death. (John 11:11-14) John 11:24-26 has Jesus saying to Martha: "Martha said to him, ‘I know that (my brother) will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her: ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die." (RSV) Is it carrying things too far to conclude that here, in the context of the resurrection, the Lord Jesus taught there would be two groups? The believing dead who would rise, and the living believers who would not die, just as Daniel has it?

This is exactly what Paul writes to the Thessalonians above: at the Arrival [Presence] of the Lord the dead would rise first, and thereafter the living would be "caught away." Thus, there would be, as Jesus had it, some dead believers and some living believers at this critical moment.

The phrase "caught away" is from the Greek word HARPAGESOMETHA which means to "snatch" or "grab" quickly. The Latin equivalent in English would be "raptured." The living Christians at the Arrival of Christ will be raptured, snatched out of harm’s way, to gather with the raised dead Saints. Then, all together, at the same time [Grk: HAMA SYN], they will gather to meet their Lord in earth’s atmosphere. (2 Thessalonians 2:1)

With these thoughts of Paul in mind, we return to his verses to the Corinthians. Paul teaches, at the trump of God, the dead in Christ will rise immortal, and then the living Saints will be "changed" in the blink of an eye; or, using the literal Greek, in an atomic moment. So, in both his letters he confirms that the dead Christians are not raised, resurrected, or awakened, until the Return or Arrival of Christ in his foretold Parousia. Only those Christians alive at this moment will experience an instantaneous change from "flesh and blood" to a spirit-like immortal body. Only then will Isaiah 25:8 be fulfilled: "Death has been swallowed up in victory!"

The idea that Christians have been resurrected to immortality since the days of Christ is not based on the writings of Paul. Note in all of Paul’s verses he never mentions the soul as being immortal, rather the PSYCHICON (soul-like) is perishable and mortal. Nor does Paul mention "hell" or Hades. Indeed, no where in Paul’s letters does he ever make use of the Greek word HADES from which "hell" is often derived. Nor does he here indicate the fleshly, physical body will be resurrected. Nor does he indicate that the dead go to heaven at death, or go on living as immortal souls while they await being rejoined to their physical bodies in some kind of resurrection.

Your dear loved ones, now dead, are in the safest condition they could be -- in God’s memory, an infinite data bank -- in the Mind of The God! In First Thessalonians 4:18, Paul writes for us "to continue encouraging one another with these words." So, we draw comfort that our dead Christian friends and relatives are asleep in death and have not yet gone to heaven. We must all wait for that thrilling moment of the Last Trumpet, when the unconscious dead will be resurrected without any seeming passage of time on their part; and, the living remnant of the New Israel of God will undergo an instantaneous change. At that moment it will seem to the dead that there was no passage of time at all, but here suddenly they exist in glory with their living brethren raptured off this earth. Words have not been created which can express that thrilling moment and the celestial hymn which will result in a New Song.

1 CORINTHIANS 15:58 -- WITH THIS HOPE, NOW WHAT? Paul concludes his writing on the subject of the resurrection with this exhortation: "Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." (RSV) What more could spur us onward than this transcendental hope? How busy should we find ourselves in "the work of the Lord"? Immortality will come only to those who "endure in good work." (Romans 2:7)

What does the "work of the Lord" involve? Though "work" may vary (Mark 13:34; 1 Corinthians 3:13, 14) there are several specific areas of Nazarene "work." THE GOOD WORK OF SERVICE TO OTHERS. (Philippians 2:30; 1 Timothy 5:10; Hebrews 6:10; 3 John 5) PERSONAL WITNESSING AND DISCIPLE-MAKING. (Lk 24:19; John 4:34; 17:3, 4; Romans 15:15, 16; 1 Corinthians 9:1) FAITH IN GOD IS A GOOD WORK. (John 6:27-29) INCREASING IN KNOWLEDGE. (Colossians 1:10; 2 Timothy 3:17) WORK WITHIN THE CHURCH. (1 Thessalonians 5:13; 1 Timothy 3:1; 5:17)

Whatever Christian "works" we perform will go with us when we die. It is with these "works" in our hands that we will appear before the Judgment Throne of Christ. (Revelation 14:13; Romans 14:10, 11; 2 Corinthians 5:10) Should we not make our appearance before the Presence of the Lord with works commensurate with the reward of immortality so that we can speak freely about our efforts and not be shamed away in his Presence. (Romans 2:5-10; 1 John 2:28) May you be blessed by saying as our Lord, "I have glorified You on earth, completing the work You have given me; and now, Father, glorify me with the glory I had in Your Presence before the Cosmos came into existence." (John 17:4, 5 NR) END

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ANNOUNCEMENTS

A 20 page commentary on the "apostolic fathers" and whether they taught the Trinity should be added to the Nazarene Saints web page soon. It is a most interesting study of early Christian scholars who are supposed to have taught the Trinity according to several web pages on the Internet.

Please feel free to print copies of this newsletter as gifts to friends and relatives. Or, "forward" it to other interested persons.

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PERFECTING THE CHRISTIAN CHARACTER

[This portion is taken from Nazarene Community.]

CHARACTERISTIC #17 --- DEFERENCE. Romans 12:16b reads in the King James Version: "but condescend to men of low estate." The phrase is variously rendered: NW: be led along with lowly things; ASV: condescend to things that are lowly; GDSP: Accepts humble tasks; WEY: Accomodate yourselves to humble ways; BER: willingly adjust yourselves to humble situations; MOF: associate with humble folk; PH: don’t become snobbish but take a real interest in ordinary people; NOR: mingle with the lowly.

The Nazarene illustrated this when he taught: "He then went on to tell the invited men an illustration, as he marked how they were choosing the most prominent places for themselves, saying to them: ‘When you are invited by someone to a marriage feast, do not lie down in the most prominent place. Perhaps someone more distinguished than you may at the time have been invited by him, and he that invited you and him will come and say to you, 'Let this man have the place.' And then you will start off with shame to occupy the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and recline in the lowest place, that when the man that has invited you comes he will say to you, 'Friend, go on up higher.' Then you will have honor in front of all your fellow guests. For everyone that exalts himself will be humbled and he that humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 14:7-11 NW)

Paul writes about this subject to other congregations: "Never Act from motives of rivalry or personal vanity, but in humility think more of one another than you do of yourselves. None of you should think only of his own affairs, but each should learn to see thing from other people’s point of view. ... Accept life with humility and patience, making allowances for one another." (Philippians 2:3, 4; Ephesians 4:2 PME) The lowly and humble will never be disharmonious. Pride is the disrupter. Humility the healer. All of your current pains, indeed all of your pains in life, may be traceable to that original Act of pride on the part of Satan.

There was not an ounce of racial, religious, or intellectual superiority in the Nazarene’s character. The Gospels are filled with his willingness to associate with those viewed as either outcasts or very low on the social ladder: prostitutes, drunks, lepers, tax collectors, and the unschooled and low caste. Some early Christians had problems with this as James describes: "Don’t ever attempt, my brothers, to combine snobbery with faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ! Suppose one man comes into your meeting well dressed with a gold ring on his finger, and another man, obviously poor, arrives in shabby clothes. If you pay special attention to the well dressed man ... doesn’t that prove you are making class distinctions in your mind, and setting yourselves up to assess a man’s quality? -- a very bad thing." (James 2:1-4 PME)

NAZARENE SAINTS ASK: Do I feel superior to certain persons? Perhaps due to education, social background, race, religion, ethnic roots, personal beauty, physical prowess, or economic advantage? Do I feel free to associate with any so- called "class" of persons? END

FAITH PERSPECTIVES:

[An open forum for the free expression of faith.]

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CHRISTIAN LIBERTY

What is Christian liberty?

This question has been answered in many ways by many people. True Christian liberty is rarely exercised. The reason for this is that man has put his definition onto it and thus he thinks that he exercises it in his dealings with fellow Christians. There is a saying, "Perception is not always reality." If the basis or premise is wrong, then the perception or understanding is also wrong. If the perception is wrong then actions and conduct based on that perception will likewise be faulty.

Many translations substitute the word freedom in place of liberty. Jesus made two important statements with regard to freedom. We find these words recorded in John 8:31-32, 36, "To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said,
'If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.'" Yes, Jesus and his teaching have set us free indeed. The Jews that believed on Jesus were freed from the bondage of the Law.

Though this is true there is always the danger of allowing oneself to be drawn in again to another kind of bondage. Listen to the warning spoken by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 5:1 "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage." (NKJV) This danger is ever present in any Christian fellowship that does not exercise the spirit of true Christian liberty.

Why is it that Christian liberty is so often attacked by those who would take away our freedom in Christ? We would like to suggest that intolerance based on judgmental attitudes is often the cause. Legalism is exercised in many Christian fellowships rather than liberty. Legalism sets up its own rules of acceptability and anyone who does not agree or conform to them is judged to be out of step with the group and a danger to that belief system.


Legalism is a power play for control. The Pharisees were experts at legalism and went to the extreme to maintain their control and power over the people, even to having our sinless Savior -- Jesus Christ, crucified.

In my opinion the following are some of the signs or indications that would identify the conditions that exist in a system of spiritual bondage:

1. Members of a particular group try to get people to suppress their ability to critically analyze and instead to accept the teachings of its founder and those in positions of leadership.

2. Once a person has accepted the group, they are then isolated and discouraged from fellowshipping with any other Christians who do not believe as they do in some areas.

3. A religious "cult" is one where the religion -- rather than God -- controls a person's life.

4. Personal works are stressed in order for one to be found acceptable to God and to the group.

5. The "earn as you go" philosophy places their future in the hands of their own ability to achieve, accomplish, and sacrifice. One is made to feel guilty if they do otherwise.

6. They are encouraged to take on the "giving to get" mentality.

7. There is often a position of superiority manifested in the actions and words of those in the group towards those who might ask questions or challenge their belief system.

8. The members of the group look down on others outside of their fellowship,
stressing that they alone are special and are the only ones with whom God is
working. It plays the "us versus them" game. A "defend the Alamo" develops.

9. Any idea or thought expressed that is contrary to what has been taught by the group is considered an attack on their belief system.

10. Passivity among its members is encouraged under the guise of its being
humility.

11. Uniformity is put in place of unity. (Unity allows diversity.)

12. They believe that only members of their special group have forsaken and
sacrificed all to follow the Lord.

13. Attendance and involvement in the group's meetings, activities and works
are used as a measure of one's faithfulness to God.

14. They live in their own world with their own set of rules and are unwilling to be with anyone who does not abide by these rules.

15. The founder's words are more often quoted than the Scriptures and are often used to clinch a point, being regarded as the convincing proof on the understanding of a topic.

16. The focus is based on the group's system of doctrinal beliefs rather than a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

17. The members of the group are convinced that only they have had special
knowledge revealed to them.

18. Labeling and judging other religious groups to be "Babylonish" is commonly
practiced.

The following is a list of Scriptures that will help us to get a true perception of Christian liberty: (These will be quoted from the NKJV.)

2 Corinthians 3:17 - "Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. "

Galatians 2:4 - "And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage)."

Galatians 5:13 - "For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another."

1 Corinthians 8:9 - "But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a
stumbling block to those who are weak."

1 Peter 2:15, 16 - "For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men -- as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God."

1 Corinthians 10:29 - "'Conscience,' I say, not your own, but that of the other. For why is my liberty judged by another man's conscience?"

James 1:25 - "But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does."

James 2:12 - "So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of
liberty."

What is true Christian liberty and how is it exercised?

Liberty is defined as having freedom from slavery, exempt from obligations, and able to do as one pleases. Is this what we mean when we talk about Christian Liberty? The answer is yes, if applied in accordance with Christian principles. The Jews who believed in Jesus were freed from the bondage of the Law. They, along with us who are Gentiles, have been set free from the bondage of corruption, sin and death. The Jews who believe in Jesus are exempt from the obligations of the Law. We and they are no longer under the law of sin and death. Romans 8:2 states, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death." (NKJV) We are able to do as we please as long as it is
pleasing to God.

The following is Strong's enhanced definition according to Logos software:

# 1657 (Greek) eleutheria {el-yoo-ther-ee'-ah}

1) liberty to do or to omit things having no relationship to salvation

2) fancied liberty

2a) license, the liberty to do as one pleases

3) true liberty is living as we should -- not as we please.

Let us consider some of the texts mentioned earlier:

2 Corinthians 3:17 - "Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. "

The Apostle is telling us that if liberty is being allowed, then the Spirit of God is working among those who are exercising this Christian liberty. Conversely, if liberty is not allowed, then the Spirit of the Lord is absent.

Galatians 2:4 - "And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage").

The Apostle is warning the Galatian church to beware of those Christian Jews who were trying to put their brethren back under the yoke of the Law. Even today, Christian legalists would like to impose the yoke of their rules and traditions upon their fellow Christians and thus bring them into bondage to their religious system.

Galatians 5:13 - "For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another."

Even though we have been set free from the law of sin, this does not give us the license to do as we selfishly please if it is harmful to someone else. Our liberty should be exercised positively so that love and not just obligation will be the controlling factor.

1 Corinthians 8:9 - "But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a
stumbling block to those who are weak."

This text is much like the one above in that it tells us that we should be cautious in the exercise of our liberty so as not to stumble one who may not understand and may be weaker in faith. Again, liberty does not give us the license or freedom to selfishly do something that could hurt someone else.

1 Peter 2:15-16 - "For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men -- as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God."

The Apostle is saying that we should be using our freedom and liberty in God's service in doing good so that our good deeds themselves will nullify any criticisms of those who oppose God's way.

1 Corinthians 10:29 - "...For why is my liberty judged by another man's conscience?"

The Apostle Paul was being attacked by the legalists of his day. Apparently he was not conforming to their expectations or rules and they found fault with him. They were attempting to wrestle away from him his liberty in Christ because his beliefs did not conform to their way of thinking. They wanted to imposed their conscience upon him. This is still a great danger and a very common practice today among many Christian fellowships.

James 1:25 - " But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does."

When liberty chooses to align itself with obedience to God's will, it will manifest itself in actions and works that are pleasing to God. The exercise of true liberty chooses not only to bless others, but it yields a blessing to all those who properly exercise it. The perfect law of liberty is always motivated by love, and love would not use liberty selfishly but always for the good of all.

We have a responsibility to our Lord Jesus who paid a great price that we could have this liberty. His death has set us free from all bondage. To live in bondage to sin is to nullify the grace of God. To live in bondage and be subject to Satan's wiles is to nullify the grace of God. To live in bondage to the dictates of any religious group or system is to nullify the grace of God. To live under the tyranny of trying to please others at all costs is nullifying the grace of God. To live under the constant demands of having to perform in order to earn and maintain God's love is bondage which nullifies the grace of God.

To exercise true liberty and be loyal to the Lord alone will probably cost you much because you will be misunderstood by others as liberal or loose and as one who has gone out of the truth! You might even be labeled as a heretic or apostate because you no longer will subject yourself to a system. Once we have accepted this liberty accorded us by God's grace, it will be something we must defend and even fight for in order to stand fast in it. Once you have it do not let anyone or anything take it from you! It is a gift of unconditional love to you from your Heavenly Father through His Beloved Son. Let us glorify and praise Him for such grace and love towards us in giving us "this glorious liberty of the children of God."


How narrow is my love

Embracing my own kind

Those of the same mind

But to all others

--blind--

How narrow is my love!

How narrow is my world

Just the house I'm in

Kin who dwell within

No one of different skin

How narrow is my world!

How wide is Thy world!

Covering earth and sky and sea

How wide is Thy love!

Covering sinners like me.

Oh God, help me grow to the height and depth of Thee!

END

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IS GOD "ONE" OR "THREE"?

No one would know better whether He is one or three than God Himself. Let us assume the Nature of God is three: three persons in One. We may rightly assume God is capable of communicating this idea to His worshippers if He so chose. Let us assume He wishes to convey this Trinitarian or triune idea to people. How could he go about it? He could be plain, simple, and direct for it is not difficult to say: "I am three" or "I am three in One: the Father, the Son, and the Spirit."

On the other hand God may choose to reveal Himself progressively to His chosen people throughout the Old Testament so that by the end of 39 inspired books the Jews would have an intelligent comprehension of the truth that "God is Three."

The first phrase of the Bible is: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." In Hebrew the word God is elohim which literally means "gods." Now, this could be the first hint to a plurality in God’s Nature. However, it would infer "gods" without indicating the number. That the Jews did not understand this to be so is the way they translated the Hebrew to Greek in the Third Century BC. They did not use theoi which means "gods." Rather they used ho theos which means The God in the masculine singular.

In the Bible’s second verse something else is first mentioned: "And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." This word "spirit" is from the Hebrew ruach which means either breath or wind. In Greek this phrase is kai pneuma theou or "the breath of The God." A pneuma or ruach is an invisible force which exerts a pressure like wind. Pneuma or ruach is not a person but is a force. Some translators Actually use "wind" instead of the Old English word ‘spirit."

In a later verse (26) Elohim (or ho theos), The God, speaks to someone else: "And The God said: ‘Let us make man According to our image." Is The God talking to Himself as if He were plural? The Jews did not understand that to be so. They thought these others were angels. (Job 38:4-7) There is no way of knowing, reading from verse 1, who this "us" might include. It is only after thousands of years of retrospection that Trinitarians construct a Trinity out of "God" of verse 1, "spirit" of verse 2, and the "Son" (or, the Spirit and the Son) of verse 26. Of course, there remains only one of these identified as "God" in verses 1 and 26. Nothing in these verses proves the spirit is a person or that the Son is meant in verse 26. These are later ideas imposed on the Genesis text.

What conclusions can we draw from just Genesis chapter one? There is the Creator, The God (ho theos vss 1, 26). There is the wind or breath of The God moving Across the waters. And, there are others implied by "us" and "our" in verse 26. Does it seem fair to conclude that God is not communicating some mysterious three in His nature? If that had been so the Jews would have grasped the meaning right away.

How might God have inspired the verses if He wanted to communicate the plurality of His nature in three persons? It would not have been difficult, with an infinite vocabulary at hand, to have said: "In the beginning the Three Natures of God created ... and the Third Person was moving over the waters. ... And, the plural nature of God said to Himself: ‘Let us .... ‘" This would not have been difficult.

On the other hand, if the truth is "God is One," then Genesis 1:1 would mean there was one God, The God. The godly breath or divine wind of The God moved over the waters. Then, in verse 26, The God (ho theos) spoke to an unknown number of others who shared in His making of man. No matter how many are involved in the words "us" and "our" there is only one God, The God, giving the command to some unidentified other(s).

THE NAME OF GOD -- "ONE" OR "THREE"?

In Genesis 2:4 the Name of God is introduced for the first time. What does this Name mean? Does it convey the idea of a plurality of three or does it infer only One. There is some disagreement on this. However, when the Jews of the Third Century translated the Hebrew YHWH to Greek they gave the meaning ho On which means According to most scholars: "The One Who Is." Does the meaning of the Name convey plurality or oneness? It seems fair to state that ho On conveys only the idea of One?

Had God wanted to reveal his plural nature in three it would not have been difficult to state in some manner something like ho trias -- The Three. Or, ho theos trias -- The God Three, or The Three-God.

IS GOD "ONE" OR "THREE" IN THE OLD TESTAMENT?

The Jews never comprehended any threeness in God as the Greek Philosophers or the Egyptian priesthood did. The idea of a triune god, or three gods in one, was right there in the religious cultures of the ancient world. It would not have been a difficult thing to convey this same idea if that is what God wanted to do. Why convey the idea of One when it was in fact Three given all the religions that surrounded Israel who already had trinities?

It is fair to state that nothing in the OT conveys the idea of a Trinity otherwise the Jews would have been the first to comprehend the notion. It is only by looking backwards through Trinitarian filters that triune-obsessed Christian scholars begin to conjure up Trinitarian images in Genesis chapters one and eighteen; or, Isaiah 6:3.

Illustrating this forced interpretation -- looking for three when there is only One -- is the Trinitarian twist to Deuteronomy 6:4 where the Shema declares the LORD to be One. Because the Hebrew echadh may mean one or first of others, it is argued that this verse becomes the "most explicit declaration of the Trinity in the whole Bible"! Even if one were to Accept the quaint Trinitarian notion that the Hebrew word for "one" in some way conveys "one of more" it is only by retrospective Trinitarian filters this can mean three rather than an unknown number.

IS GOD "ONE" OR "THREE" IN THE NEW TESTAMENT?

When we come to the New Testament we could ask this same question: How would God go about revealing He was a plural of Three and not just one person alone? This is not difficult to write: "Our God is three." Nothing even remotely like this occurs.

Jesus the Nazarene has plenty of opportunity to use the number three in some connection with God. Note John 8:16-18: "The father who sent me is with me. Also, in your own Law it is written: ‘The witness of two persons is true.’ (Deuteronomy 19:15) I am one that bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness abut me.’" Can anyone deny that abundant opportunity is present here to use the "three" of Deuteronomy 19:15 in revealing the three-fold nature of God. Jesus would have had no difficulty in saying: "As your law states: ‘The witness of three persons is true.’ I am one who bears witness of myself, and the Father bears witness of me, and the Holy Spirit also bears witness.’" Jesus could have Actually used the same phrases in the fake text, 1 John 5:7 had he been a Trinitarian.

Paul is not ignorant of the number three for he uses it at 2 Corinthians 12:2 (tritou), 14 (triton); 13:1 (triton, trion), the later in the context of quoting Deuteronomy 19:15 and a plurality of persons. Paul also quotes Deuteronomy 19:15 but he adds "three" showing Jesus could have done the same.

It seems strange indeed that if Jesus were part of a Trinitarian deity -- he would surely know this -- and miss his opportunity in John 8:17, 18. It is probably fair to state that a real Trinitarian would not have included only two in this case but would have conjured up a 1 John 5:7.

Jesus has another opportunity when he quotes the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4 in Mark 12:29: "Jesus answered, ‘The first is "Hear, O Israel, the Lord is one."’" Understanding what Jesus meant, the Jewish scribe says: "You are right, Teacher, you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other.’" To which Jesus says the man is "not far from the Kingdom of God." (Mk 12:29-34 RSV) Jesus could have easily given the Trinitarian explanation of the Hebrew echadh or the Greek heis as indicating three persons. Rather, the Nazarene praises the scribe for his conclusion: "(God) is One, and besides Him there is no other." Something which could not be said if God were Three.

This opportunity to involve three in a formula occurs also at Matthew 11:27: "No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him." (RSV) Why would the Son omit the Third Person of the Holy Trinity? For surely -- if the Trinity be true -- the Spirit would know the Father and the Son also. It would have been easy to say: "No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son, and the Holy Spirit knows both the Son and the Father as He is known by them."

Paul also makes it plain that "God is One" ignoring any opportunity to explain the Mystery of the Trinity. Twice in the contexts of others -- with the opportunity to form some triune plurality -- Paul stress "God is One." First in Galatians 3:20: "Now there is no mediator where only one person is concerned, but The God is only one [ho de theos heis estin]." Paul does this again at 1 Timothy 2:5: "For there is one God [heis gar theos]; there is also one mediator between God and humankind." Just as there is only "one mediator" and not some plural mediator, there is only one God.

In the very context of the plurality of "gods" Paul speaks of only one God: "There is no God except one. ... Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist." (1 Corinthians 8:4, 6 RSV) Something pops right off the page: the missing Holy Spirit. With full opportunity and a mastery of language, Paul misses the chance to declare: "To us God is three: the Father, the Lord Jesus, and the Holy Spirit." It is a simple sentence. Why would God Himself miss this opportunity to inspire Paul to declare a triune Godhead?

Finally, some will immediately want to jump to Ephesians 4:4-6 and what will be declared to be a triune formula. Read it clearly and fairly: "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all." (RSV) Only "one" is declared to be God in these verses. Rather than being a triune formula it encompasses seven "ones." It is the "one God" only who is "above all" -- which would include the Christian "body" and the "one Spirit" and the "one Lord."

Had Paul been a Trinitarian and had a Trinitarian God inspired him would he have written Ephesians 4:4-6 in this manner? For he omits the spirit and Jesus from his declaration of "one God" and includes only the Father who is "above all" including the spirit and Jesus.

SUMMARY. The above is presented as a statement of the Biblical truth that "God is One" and not three. It is presented to demonstrate that if "God is Three" the Bible seems to go in another direction. It is assumed God can communicate the simple truth that He is Three and if this is His intent he falls far short of it in the many declarations that "God is One." We ask, then, why the number "Three"?

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WHY THE NUMBER "THREE"?

The doctrine of the Trinity teaches there are Three Persons (or, Hypostases) in One God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Any thoughtful person might ask: Why "Three"? Why not two, or four, or seven? Or, three-hundred million persons in one Divine Community like a celestial bee-hive? Why ... three?

Numbers held great religious power in the ancient world. Three has always been particularly mystical, particularly when squared (nine). Numbers appear often in the Bible. For example, here are the occurrences of the various numerals ---

01 5,624

02 1,054

03 585

04 387

05 389

06 241

07 534

08 113

09 52

10 276

These results are interesting when we consider them from the standpoint of what must be the most sacred (from a Trinitarian standpoint) -- three. One is clearly a premier number in the Bible. Two is second, and three is (?) third. The highly sacred number, the square of three, nine is the least used number in the Bible. The luckiest number in the Asian world, eight (the number who survived the Flood), is also rare.

When we examine the number three and look for its occurrence in some relationship to God -- who is supposed to be Triune in nature -- we find no such occurrence. This seems unusual beyond belief when many pagan religions reveal their trinities in the form of one body with six arms; or, a three-side, or three-faced god. It is not difficult to do or say. For example, the phrase "God is One" occurs several times, but a phrase just as easy to write and say, "God is Three," is completely missing. Why should this be when we might rightfully expect the number "three" to receive premier emphasis in a Bible inspired by a Triune Godhead?

The Oxford Companion to the Bible, page 561, comments on this: "Three is widely regarded as a divine number. Many religions have triads of gods. Biblical faith has no room for a triad, and the number three is rarely connected with God. ... Neither is the doctrine of the Trinity expressed there in so many words."

Harper’s Bible Dictionary, page 497, admits: "Three ... was already sacred to early Babylonian religions, honoring a triad (Anu, Bel, Ea) ... as Egyptians honored Isis, Osiris, and Horus."

When we look at that book of the Bible where numbers figure prominently, Revelation, some interesting observations are made.

01 103

02 14

03 11

04 29

05 3

06 6

07 59

08 2

09 0

10 11

12 23

Again we are surprised by the appearances of "three" for it is only tied with the 6th position in number of occurrences. Surprising, the number "nine" -- the most sacred Babylonian number -- is missing completely! As in the rest of the Bible, the number three is never used in some relationship with God’s nature in the Book of Revelation.

This seems strange for a Book inspired by a Triune Godhead --- to minimize or even ignore three in some combination, particularly squared, as it is in pagan religions. Might there be a reason?

We find the lack of emphasis on the number three -- or nine -- to be evidence against the concept of a Triune Godhead. Why would the Bible do such a thing? Why would this number "three" be so sacred in extra-biblical religions and yet devoid of emphasis in the Bible?

 

First, we note Aristotle’s own use of the number "three" in relation to God: "For, as the Pythagoreans say, the world and all that is in it is determined by the number three, since beginning and middle and end give the number of an 'all', and the number they give is the trinity [Greek trias; English = "trinity"]. And so, having taken these three from nature as (so to speak) laws of it, we make further use of the number three in the worship of the Gods." (Aristotle, On the Heavens, Book I, 1) There can be no question, based on this one statement by the great Greek philosopher alone, the number three was a number of high magnitude religiously speaking. Again, we ask, Why?

What could be the reason for this selection of the number Three? We wish to suggest a possibility.

Once, there was only One, the Absolute Being. All that existed was only God and God only was all that existed. At some moment -- do not ask, When? for your string with measured knots did not yet exist -- the One Absolute Being thought [ > Mind, Reason, Intellectual Process; the Divine Mind as the Pressure of Consciousness exerting a Force projected by Divine Will -- the holy spirit, or Mind of God] to create a second being, a Son -- a monogenetic. (John 1:18) In the most glorious transcendent moment of all creation -- exceeding the Big Bang by mathematical anomalies -- the Absolute Being begat His Son. Now there were Two -- Father and Son. This one who was Second was to become the only being directly created (monogenetic) by The Absolute Being and therefore First and Last in this matter. (Re 1:17) How long they were together "alone" is an unsolvable philosophical matter. Surely, there was unimaginable intellectual intercourse between the Two as the Second Being, the only-begotten Son, learned from the Divine Mind. (John 17:6; Proverbs 8:22-30)

The purpose of this was to prepare the Son for the creation which was to follow. For the only-begotten Son, called "only-begotten god" by the apostle John (John 1:18 > monogenetic god), was to become the Instrument -- Agency, Channel, Conduit -- for all the rest of creation. (Hebrews 1:2, 3; John 1:3; Colossians 1:15-18; Proverbs 8:22-30) The Son was soon to become the Logos -- the Word, the Spokesman or Mouthpiece -- by means of whom The Absolute Being would make, or bring into existence, all other creatures. (John 1:2, 3) The Father would speak to the Son -- "Let there be" -- and it would become.

First created, the celestialum of other spirit creatures, such as angels, who would become part of one heavenly family of millions of spirit-like persons. (Colossians 1:16; Job 38:4-6) Then, the material creation -- perhaps in a dramatic Big Bang -- which began an evolving process by which the simplest of nuclear particles became the Universe -- the PANTA -- that is today. This included the process revealed in Genesis chapter one when The God speaks to another and commands, "Let there be ... "; and, then, later instructs this Second -- His Son, the Logos: "Let us make man in our image." (Genesis 1:26; Proverbs 8:30 master workman, craftsman, confidant)

This Son as a "confidant" -- or, Master-Worker -- is spoken of as (female) Wisdom [Grk = sophia; compare Colossians 2:3; 1 Corinthians 1:24] in Proverbs 8:22-30: "[Yahweh] created me at the beginning of His course as the first of His works of old. In the distant past I was fashioned, at the beginning. ... I was brought forth. ... I was there when He set the heavens into place. ... When [Yahweh] fixed the foundations of the earth, I was with Him as a confidant [or, Master-worker]." This text was used by many of the so-called "apostolic fathers" ofthe first and second century and applied to the "Wisdom of God," Christ.

How might the number "three" have come into the picture? When one reflects on it, there are three life-forms: 1) the Absolute Being; 2) the Only-begotten God as the first and last of the Father’s direct creation (the Monogenetic); and, 3) the rest of creation, both celestial and terrestrial. Among the later category there was one who later became known as Satan (Resister) or Devil (Slanderer). (Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:13-17) It is not difficult to imagine the rebellion that followed resulted because Satan wanted to represent the third life form -- general creation. It is easy to imagine Satan’s line of argument -- the Absolute Being represents his own kind; the Son as only-begotten (monogenetic), the only one directly related to the Father, represents his own kind -- but, who will represent Everything else, the PANTA, the All Things of creation, other than the Son?

This idea -- a third as representative of the PANTA, the general creation -- arouses the number Three -- the third place or number Satan craved. Thus, the number Three is the Satanic number -- including its square, nine -- as it is worshipped by the ancient Greeks and modern pagan religions. [The pentagram, an ancient symbol for power is a circle with three triangles overlaid in it.] This explains why the number Three is given no importance or emphasis in the Bible as a whole and never linked in any manner to God the Father or His Son, Jesus Christ. It explains why the Babylonish "nine" is omitted completely from the Book of Revelation.

We wish to apply an analogy here to illustrate the matter: Adam, like God, has another being created from his own substance, Eve -- the first and last woman so made; then, Adam and his second, Eve (like the female Wisdom), begat Cain, the first of their union, but the third of their kind, who then became the manslayer. (John 8:44;1 John 3:12, 15) In like manner, the Absolute Being brought into existence a Second Being -- perhaps from His own substance -- and then in union the Creator used the Son as His agent to create others, perhaps a first of these, a third of many millions to follow. This may have been the angelic being who was to turn himself into a satan or diabolos and tried to install himself as a third.

However, the Father’s purpose triumphs over the Satanic Third. For Jesus rose on the third day, thus indicating a shattering of Satanic influence over mankind. Irrespective of the reason behind the religious significance to the number "three" the grand truth of the Bible remains -- "God is One."

Let us assume God is a plurality of Three Beings and this represents an ultimate and absolute truth. Let us assume this Godhead of Three is also going to reveal Himself gradually over period of 1,500 years. Let us also assume mankind was largely polytheistic during this period of revelation. In other words, mankind is perfectly primed to comprehend a plurality or Three different Beings in One God. Indeed, many "pagan" religions worship trinities of gods so that there is no difficulty in understanding the concept at all. God begins, and continues, to reveal Himself first as a singular Being throughout more than 1,500 years so that His Chosen People -- the very instrument and vehicle for revelation -- do not grasp at all such a revelation of Himself as Three? Indeed, at the full bloom of this progressive revelation He unveils Himself so poorly -- inadequately expressing Himself -- that 2,000 years later many of the very students of this revelation are not sure at all whether God is One or Three?

For example, how difficult for God is it to declare: "We are God alone and there is no other with Us Three. I AM at One the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit -- Three Beings but One God"? It seems to continue to reveal Himself as "one" and "alone" goes contrary to the very Truth of His existence when, in fact, He is not One but Three?

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NAZARENE LOVE

Jesus of Nazareth has become historically famous for being a teacher who taught about love as well as lived a life which epitomized this quality. Most sincere Bible students and genuine disciples of the Nazarene are aware that the word Jesus used was agape. That word-group appears 75 times in the Gospel records.

We are interested in what the word "love" (agape) means. Who should be the object of our Nazarene love? How should we apply this love According to Jesus.

What is love?

Love (or, agape) is generally defined as interest or concern for something or someone manifest in some Action. Two texts define love without Actually using the word: "Let everyone seek, not personal advantage, but what is advantageous to others." (1 Corinthians 10:24) "Concentrate, not on self, but consider the interests of everyone else." (Philippians 2:4) With this in mind, renowned Greek scholar William Barclay simplified the idea of agape: "Seek the highest good of another."

There is both a positive and negative love depending on the motive and the object of the love. For example, the Nazarene described the Pharisees as "lovers of money." (Luke 16:14) One may also wrongly love "darkness." (John 3:19) These two types of love -- selfish and selfless -- are illustrated in two parables. In the parable of the Good Samaritan the one who loves his neighbor does so without any selfish agenda. (Luke 10:33ff) In the parable of the shrewd servant the one who shows love by changing the amount of the debts does so for personal reasons. (Luke 16:1ff)

Who should be loved?

Jesus taught five different categories of persons who should be loved.

1. God. When Jesus is asked about the greatest commandment, his answer is to love God with the entire heart, soul, strength and mind. (Matthew 22:37) Such love of God would prove that to you God has become everything in your life.(1 Corinthians 15:28) This love would manifest itself in worship, praise, and obedience.

2. Jesus. The Nazarene taught, "If you love me you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15) This love for the Nazarene would manifest then in obedience to the over 60 commandments Jesus gave.

3. Friends. Jesus taught that love of friends was manifest in willingness to sacrifice one’s life. Jesus taught: "No one has greater love than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends." (John 15:14) How did one of the Nazarene’s disciples understand this? John wrote: "By this we came to know love because [the Son of God] surrender his soul for us; and so we are obligated to surrender our own souls for our brothers." (1 John 3:16) According to John this is done by sharing worldly means with a brother in need. If such tender affection is lacking then there is no love of God existing in such a selfish person. Nor will such a person ever benefit from the love of God.

4. Sinners. Jesus made it clear the way to spiritual perfection was to imitate God’s giving nature. Jesus taught: "There is no credit with God if you love only friends and not sinners." These sinners would include enemies, the unrighteous, the wicked, and the ungrateful. (Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 6:32-36)

5. Neighbors and strangers. When Jesus answered the question regarding the greatest commandment, he continued with another commandment: "You must love your neighbor as yourself." He was challenged on this by a self-righteous rabbi, "Who is my neighbor?" The Nazarene’s answer was the parable of the Good Samaritan. If we relate this parable in a modern context it might go:

"[One of Jehovah’s Witnesses] was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He fell into the hands of bandits who stripped off his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead. It so happens that [an Elder of Jehovah’s Witnesses] was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. A [JW deacon] also came on the scene, and when he saw him he too passed by on the other wide. But then [a Catholic priest] came along to the place where the man was lying, and at the sight of him he was touched with pity. He went Across to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring an oil and wine. Ten he put him on his own mule, brought him to a [hotel] and did what he could for him. Next day he took out two silver coins [about $100 US] and gave them to the innkeeper with the words: ‘Look after him, will you? I will pay you back whatever more you spend, when I come through here on my return.’" Jesus concludes: "With of the three seems to you to have been a neighbor to the bandits victim?"

(Luke 10:29-37 PME)

How should this love manifest itself?

According to the teachings of the Nazarene how is this love of others manifest or applied?

1. Life. The Nazarene taught that a truly loving friend would be willing to give his life for his friends. This was the greatest manifestation of love. "No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends." (John 15:13) The Nazarene’s beloved disciple understood this to mean, not just literally dying for a friend, but sacrificing life-style if needed to give in charity. He writes: "We know and to some extent realize the love of God for us because Christ expressed it in laying down his life us. We must in turn express our love by laying down our lives for those who are our brothers. But as for the well-to-do man who sees his brother in want but shuts his eyes -- and his heart -- how could anyone believe that the love God lives in him? My children, let us love not merely in theory or in words -- let us love in sincerity and in practice!" (1 John 3:16-18 PME)

2. Charity. The Nazarene taught that his disciple should be willing to give to anyone who asked. "Give to the one asking you, and do not turn away from one that wants to borrow from you [without interest]." (Matthew 5:42) "Therefore, if you, although being wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will your Father who is in the heavens give good things to those asking him?" (Matthew 7:11) "You received free, give free. Do not procure gold or silver or copper for your girdle purses." (Matthew 10:8, 9) "If you want to be perfect, go sell your belongings and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and come be my follower." (Matthew 19:21; Mark 10:21) "Give to everyone asking you, and from the one taking your things away do not ask [them] back." (Luke 6:30) "Sell the things belonging to you and give gifts of mercy. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, a never-failing treasure in the heavens, where a thief does not get near nor moth consumes." (Luke 12:33)

3. Prayer. The Nazarene taught his disciples to pray for enemies and persecutors. "Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you." (Matthew 5:44) Jesus did this while hanging from the executioners tree: "Father forgive them." The first martyr Stephen does the same: "Lord, do not charge this sin against them." (Acts 7:60)

4. Doing good. The Nazarene taught his disciples should do good to others, not only friends, but also enemies. Examples of doing good to another are seen in the parable of the Good Samaritan and that of the Sheep and Goats. In both illustrations the good that is done are examples of humanitarian kindness. (Matthew 25:40-46)

5. Lend without hope of restitution. The Nazarene taught no disciple was to give money to others expecting a return. "To the contrary, continue to love your enemies and to do good and to lend [without interest], not hoping for anything back." (Luke 6:35) "Give to the one asking you, and do not turn away from one that wants to borrow from you [without interest]." (Matthew 5:42)

6. Lend without interest. The Nazarene taught his disciples should never extracts interest from loans, including giving to enemies. "Give to everyone asking you, and from the one taking your things away do not ask [them] back. ... And if you love those loving you, of what credit is it to you? For even the sinners love those loving them. And if you do good to those doing good to you, really of what credit is it to you? Even the sinners do the same. Also, if you lend [without interest] to those from whom you hope to receive, of what credit is it to you? Even sinners lend [without interest] to sinners that they may get back as much. To the contrary, continue to love your enemies and to do good and to lend [without interest], not hoping for anything back; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind toward the unthankful and wicked. Continue becoming merciful [in your charity], just as your Father is merciful." (Luke 6:30-36)

7. Give to all asking. The Nazarene taught his disciples should give to any who ask, including the unrighteous, the wicked, and the ungrateful. "Give to everyone asking you, and from the one taking your things away do not ask [them] back." (Luke 6:30) "And if a person wants to go to court with you and get possession of your inner garment, let your outer garment also go to him." (Matthew 5:40)

8. Do to others as you would have it done to you. The Nazarene taught the Golden Rule: do positive Acts of kindness to others as you would want done to yourself. "Also, just as you want men to do to you, do the same way to them." (Luke 6:31) If you were hungry, thirsty, cold, without shelter, a stranger -- how would you like to be treated? Then go and do that to others.

9. Bless and greet. The Nazarene taught his disciples to be friendly and greet all. "And if you greet your brothers only, what extraordinary thing are you doing? Are not also the people of the nations doing the same thing? You must Accordingly be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:47, 48)

10. Non-resistance. "However, I say to you: Do not resist him that is wicked; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other also to him. And if a person wants to go to court with you and get possession of your inner garment, let your outer garment also go to him; and if someone under authority impresses you into service for a mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one asking you, and do not turn away from one that wants to borrow from you [without interest]." (Matthew 5:39, 41, 42)

Thus, anyone who claims to be a disciple of Jesus Christ will be manifest by his kind charity to both friends, strangers and enemies.

If a Nazarene disciple is aware of a brother in need it is vital that love and kindness be shown to such. This may take a variety of forms: drink to the thirsty, food to the hungry, clothing to the ill-clad, a hospitable welcome to strangers, care in sickness, visits in prison.

"Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who have been blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world. For I became hungry and you gave me something to eat; I got thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you received me hospitably; naked, and you clothed me. I fell sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous ones will answer him with the words, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty, and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and receive you hospitably, or naked, and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to you?' And in reply the king will say to them, 'Truly I say to you, To the extent that you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'" (Matthew 25:34-40; Compare Isaiah 58:6-8)

The most religious person zealously involved in his church who refuses to care for widows and orphans or other fellow Christians, is practicing a religion which is useless and in vain. "If any man seems to himself to be a very religious and yet does not bridle his tongue, but goes on deceiving his own heart, this man's type of religion is futile. The type of religion that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world." (James 1:26, 27) "If a brother or a sister is in a naked state and lacking the food sufficient for the day, yet a certain one of you says to them: "Go in peace, keep warm and well fed," but you do not give them the necessities for [their] body, of what benefit is it? Thus, too, faith, if it does not have works, is dead in itself." (James 2:15-17)

"But whoever has this world's means for supporting life and beholds his brother having need and yet shuts the door of his tender compassions upon him, in what way does the love of God remain in him? Little children, let us love, neither in word nor with the tongue, but in deed and truth." (1 John 2:15-17)

Summary. A close review of the teachings of the Nazarene on this subject of love shows Jesus has first in mind the use of one’s money or property in the charitable aid of those less fortunate. Religion or reverent devotions are useless if empty of genuine and regular charity to others. Indeed a major part of Christian "worship" is the care of others. We all have the choice of love in our dealings with others even in desperate situations. Consider: "We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number. but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's way." (Victor Frankl (1905-1997), Psychiatrist and writer)

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